Fox News has resurrected a debunked, six-year old smear against President Obama as part of its desperate attempt at damage control in the wake of network contributor Karl Rove's baseless accusation that Hillary Clinton is suffering from brain damage.
On May 14, Fox News aired a sound bite from a 2008 CNN interview with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and CNN's Wolf Blitzer in which Obama states: "And, so, for him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination." Co-hosts Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck used the clip to recycle an old, debunked talking point that Obama was suggesting Sen. John McCain was "off his rocker" because he "was getting older." Fox then used this clip to argue that attacks on a political opponent's mental health occurs on both sides of the aisle in an attempt to paint Rove's recent comments suggesting Hillary Clinton had brain damage as "not unusual":
HASSELBECK: In 2008 Obama suggested McCain lost his bearings because he was getting older in fact.
DOOCY: Okay so where's the press attacking then Senator Obama for suggesting that John McCain was off his rocker? There wasn't any because you know there's just a double standard when it comes the left and the right in the mainstream media.
This attack dates back to 2008 when conservative media first tried to twist Obama's interview to claim he was attacking McCain's age. But even then, Obama's spokesman insisted that the comment was taken out of context while pointing out that "clearly losing one's bearing has no relation to age."
The transcript of the interview reveals that Obama was responding to McCain's smear where he claimed "Obama is favored by Hamas." Obama addressed the comment in the interview by pointing out that McCain had previously promised not to "run that kind of politics" by leading a smear campaign, and that by engaging in this negative campaigning, McCain had violated his pledge.
Rove's suggestion that Hillary Clinton might have brain damage from a 2012 concussion was widely criticized, yet conservative media have continued to politicize her health. Fox's efforts to exhume the thoroughly-debunked lies surrounding the 2008 campaign in an effort to run defense for Rove shows just how far the network is willing to go to smear Hillary Clinton and score political points in the next presidential election.
Following the kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by terrorist group Boko Haram, right-wing media are rushing to smear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not designating the group a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), insinuating that the kidnappings might have been prevented had the State Department issued the designation earlier. The baseless attack ignores the facts around FTO designations and foreign affairs.
From the May 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
A new Gallup poll shows that the number of uninsured is the lowest ever recorded, a finding that punches holes in the right-wing narrative that few uninsured individuals have gained coverage under Obamacare.
On May 5, Gallup released a new poll showing that the percentage of Americans who are uninsured dropped to 13.4 percent, the "lowest monthly uninsured rate recorded since Gallup and Healthways began tracking it in January 2008." Gallup pointed out that the consistent decline in the number of uninsured adults "coincided with the health insurance marketplace exchanges opening in October 2013."
Conservative media outlets have consistently tried to spin Obamacare enrollment numbers in an effort to discredit the ACA, claiming that the health care law increased the number of uninsured Americans.
Fox News led the charge in pushing the false narrative that the "net result" of the ACA was "quite negative," casting past increases in insured individuals as "practically a net wash." The network has relied heavily on anecdotal evidence from "victims" of Obamacare to stoke fears that the ACA has led to rampant cancellations and effectively uninsured more individuals than it has insured. Several news outlets employed similar tactics, despite the fact that many of the Obamacare victims' stories crumbled upon investigation.
Fox has also hyped fears that young people's failure to sign up for plans would force the ACA "into [a] death spiral" that would in turn cause skyrocketing premiums. Conservative blogs including Breitbart and the Daily Caller have made similarly egregious claims, ignoring enrollment surges and claiming that Obamacare's "current net effect is clearly in favor of cancellations."
Gallup's recent poll renders these allegations not only unfounded, but downright untenable. Any claims that Obamacare would result in a 'net loss' ignore the option to renew plans, tax credits, and Medicaid expansion, all of which have had an obvious and unprecedented effect in lowering the number of uninsured.
In a May 5 piece highlighting Gallup's finding, The New Republic noted that "the trend in the Gallup polling clearly isn't a blip," and concluded that the conservative media's fear mongering is "just not credible anymore."
With over 8 million people enrolled in private health plans, an additional 4.8 million newly enrolled under Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, and new polling suggesting the Obama's health care law is already a strong success, right-wing media may want to rethink their narrative on Obamacare.
From the April 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News promoted what they called a "blistering report" on Benghazi released by the Citizens' Committee on Benghazi, a group comprised of birthers, conspiracy theorists, and fringe right-wing activists.
Right wing media hid the reasons for the Obama administration's decision to delay consideration of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline while pending lawsuits and investigations progress, denouncing the move as purely "political."
Right-wing media attacked a decision to shutter the New York Police Department's (NYPD) ineffective Demographics Unit surveillance program that that profiled local Muslims and subjected them to increased police scrutiny.
Conservative media have rallied behind Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a political activist known for her toxic anti-Islam rhetoric after Brandeis University cancelled plans to grant her an honorary degree. Right-wing media have painted Hirsi Ali as a champion for women's rights, but instead appear to use her views on gender as a rhetorical gateway to attack the religion of Islam and highlight Hirsi Ali's view that Islam is a religion of violence and a "cult of death."
On April 8, Brandeis University announced that it would reverse course in awarding an honorary degree to Hirsi Ali, a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) known for her critical views of Islam. The New York Times reported that while Brandeis has invited Hirsi Ali to speak, it could not "overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with" its values, labeling her past statements as the reason it revoked the degree.
Since the announcement, conservative media figures have rushed to defend Hirsi Ali, some using her life experience to explain away her Islamophobic comments. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol called the move an "example of a war on women" and argued that the university had "caved to Muslim thugs." Fox News' Sean Hannity said the university's decision was an "example of left-wing appeasement." On April 10, Fox contributor Monica Crowley asked, "Where are the moderate Muslims? Where are people who, like Ali, have left the faith and are willing to courageously speak about it? And yet when somebody does show the guts and gets out there to do it, this is how they're treated?"
But Hirsi Ali is not moderate in her views of Islam -- once referring to the religion as "a destructive nihilistic cult of death" in a 2007 interview with The London Evening Standard. The New York Times reports that Hirsi Ali has also "advocated the closing of Islamic schools in the West and said that 'violence is inherent in Islam' and that 'Islam is the new fascism'." In a 2007 Reason interview, she also called for Islam to be militarily crushed and suggested the Constitution should be amended to permit oppression of U.S. Muslims.
Hirsi Ali has similarly used her position at AEI to push for antagonistic relations between the U.S. and Muslim-majority countries, even criticizing President Obama for not "associating Islam with extremism." In a 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed, How to Win the Clash of Civilizations, Hirsi Ali highlighted her views that Islam "is at war with America" and wrote that Western civilization "needs to be actively defended" against Islam.
Although Hirsi Ali has been an outspoken advocate for women's rights, her narrative that violence and misogyny are inherent to the religion of Islam is problematic, but it is also what has recently propelled her into the conservative media spotlight. Right-wing outlets such as Fox have been notorious for amplifying Islamophobic voices in an effort to spread fear that Muslims are 'taking over,' while pushing the idea that Islam is adverse to Western values.
Conservative media have greatly enabled anti-Islam propaganda, and have had a significant role in propagating the belief that Islam is a violent religion and is therefore something the United States must fight against. On April 9, Fox host Andrea Tantaros exemplified this when she defended Hirsi Ali by arguing "we are" at war with radical Islam because "they are going to kill us, as the Qur'an states according to Bernard Lewis and many other scholars, they're going to kill us, Sean, until we are all Muslims or ruled by Muslims."
Fox and other conservative voices such as Pamela Geller, Zuhdi Jasser, and the National Review use figures like Hirsi Ali to boost their own anti-Islamic positions as legitimate, giving them cover to continue spreading anti-Muslim hate. Conservative media's rush to uphold Hirsi Ali's story is therefore much more a defense of their own Islamophobic narratives than of Hirsi Ali herself.
Violence against women in any form is a serious issue in many societies, and to limit the discussion by portraying it as a problem specific to the Muslim community, while dehumanizing an entire faith, is irresponsible, inimical to the cause of women's rights, and it is Islamophobic.
As Evelyn Alsultany, author of Arabs And Muslims in the Media and associate professor at the University of Michigan, told Media Matters, Hirsi Ali "has not promoted any kind of true understanding of Islam, but has provided justification for the public and the government to perpetuate racism." Alsultanty explains further:
While she has brought attention to oppression that some Muslim women face, she has done so by simplistically blaming Islam. As a result, she has powerfully contributed to naturalizing the idea that Islam in and of itself is the enemy of democracy and civilization. This idea has serious consequences. It has led to Muslims in the West facing a spectrum of experiences, from hostile questions about their faith to hate crimes. It has provided justification for the U.S. to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, that has negatively impacted the lives of Muslim women through war.
Communications director to the Center for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Ibrahim Hooper similarly pointed out that Hirsi Ali's rhetoric hijacks legitimate issues and "demonizes Islam." As Alsultany concludes, "we need to find a way to discuss a serious problem -- violence against women in a way that does not present the problem as exclusive to Muslim women."
Fox News attacked Denver public schools by claiming they were hiring "illegal alien" teachers who are unqualified to teach. But the teachers in question have legal status to work in the U.S., have an alternative license to teach from the state of Colorado, and are working toward being fully licensed.
In a stunning exercise in false equivalence, Fox News accused CBS News of maintaining a disciplinary double standard after it suspended correspondent Lara Logan for her botched 60 Minutes Benghazi report but continues to employ an analyst that Fox erroneously suggested was part of a Benghazi talking points conspiracy to provide political cover to President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On April 2, according to ABC News, former CIA deputy director, Michael Morell testified again before the House Intelligence Committee regarding the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox News used today's hearing as a launching point to spin its latest already-debunked Benghazi conspiracy, hosting Lt. Tony Schaffer on the April 2 edition of Fox & Friends to push allegations that Morell deliberately omitted the truth about the Benghazi attacks from talking points later used by the administration in return for a consulting position with a firm ostensibly close to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Fox used the trumped up allegation to call for Morell's suspension from his position as an analyst for CBS, citing suspended CBS correspondent Lara Logan's botched and retracted 60 Minutes Benghazi report as a comparison. Fox co-host Steve Doocy accused CBS of maintaining a "crazy double standard" for disciplining Logan but not Morell:
DOOCY: Also what's interesting is Mike Morell also works for CBS. He's a consultant. Lara Logan, as you will recall, was fired or suspended from 60 Minutes for simply interviewing somebody who told a story that was not accurate.
Mike Morell is a consultant an analyst on CBS and it looks like he lied to congress. It looks like CBS has got a crazy double standard.
Doocy's attempt to equate a Fox conspiracy theory about Morell's actions and motivations with Logan's now-infamous breaches of ethics and journalistic standards is staggering, as the two circumstances bear no resemblance. The allegations against Morrell have been repeatedly debunked, while Logan's 60 Minutes report on Benghazi that featured questionable source, Dylan Davies, whose credibility has since crumbled, led to an internal investigation resulting in the retraction of the report, an apology from Logan, and the subsequent leave of absence of Logan and her producer, Max McClellan.
Determined to undermine positive news about successful enrollment in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, Fox News drastically downplayed the number of previously uninsured Americans who have gained coverage through the ACA.
From the March 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski highlighted the need for a "national conversation" on the gender wage gap and called on Republicans to either "come to the table" on the issue or "be quiet." Such a turnaround will be difficult while Fox News remains the communications arm of the GOP, as the network has consistently perpetuated sexist rhetoric and dismissed workplace inequality as a "myth" not worth covering.
A recent report from the American Association of University Woman (AAUW) found that, one year out of college, women on average are paid just 82 percent of what men make and noted that the gap tends to grow over time. According to the report, this discrepancy between men and women's earnings has not improved in the past decade. A 2012 report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research explained that "[w]omen's median earnings are lower than men's in nearly all occupations -- whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women." As Think Progress has reported, women make less than their male peers regardless of their education level, industry, job, or location.
Brzezinski stressed the necessity of promoting a "national conversation" to address these issues, but Fox News and other conservative media have already hijacked the conversation and are undermining the possibility of open debate. Fox's Bill O'Reilly refused to acknowledge the pay gap as a real issue and questioned the point of disucssing it, while Fox's John Stossel has repeatedly attempted to debunk what he describes as "gender myths" like the pay gap. Radio host Rush Limbaugh has dismissed arguments about the pay gap as "tripe" and claimed that wages are only stagnant for people who "don't do good work."
Though Brzezinski noted that the gender wage gap discussion is "rife with so many ways the Republican Party could really help address some of the issues," Republicans face a major hurdle in engaging with such issues while Fox News remains the GOP's communications arm.
Continuing a pattern of romanticizing economic hardships that limit employee choice and force workers to put in long hours for low pay, right-wing media have claimed that expanding overtime compensation for salaried workers undermines work ethic by changing "the notion of hard work."
Right-wing media were quick to attack President Obama's new plan to alter Labor Department pay requirements to expand the number of salaried workers who qualify for overtime. Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck warned that this move "undercuts work ethic," and co-host Brian Kilmeade agreed, encouraging viewers to weigh in on the "new American work ethic" and how the plan is "discouraging those, it seems, that want to work more to get further along, with these new rules."
On the March 12 edition of Fox Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, Fox host Martha MacCallum similarly warned that workers would be forced into "an hourly wage category," which she said, gives employees "a whole different mentality." The Wall Street Journal lamented the change in a March 12 editorial:
The rules will particularly harm workers who want to climb the economic ladder by going the extra mile for their employers and demonstrating why they deserve promotion. Now many businesses will tell employees with ambition they can't work long hours.
Fox & Friends also ran an on-air graphic on March 13 that read, "The New American Way: New Rule Seems To Change The Notion Of Hard Work."
These reflexive attacks highlight conservative media's tendency to denounce proposals designed to benefit workers by romanticizing economic hardship. Conservative outlets like Fox News have previously commended the "uniquely American" desire to "work more, work harder" and take on "two and three jobs to make ends meet" as something that is being undermined by policies that offer workers more flexibility.